GOOD CHRISTIAN MEN, REJOICE                                 written in early 1300s

The Story

Both the text and the music for this Christmas hymn go back many centuries. In 1601, Bartholomaeus Gesius adapted the previously existing music and called it In Dulci Jubilo, which means “With Sweet Shouting”. Later Bach arranged it for the organ, and – later still – John Stainer did a choral version. The words come from Latin, but very early the Germans had translated it, adding some thoughts to it. Many other language groups have freely adapted this song as well. Though the great translator John Neale standardized the hymn in English (in 1853), it is truly a folk song with many different forms and traditions.

This song is a Christmas carol from the medieval carol tradition… a macaronic carol; macaronic carols used dance-like rhythms in contrast to the unmetered flow of plainsong chant; and folk instruments including percussion were often used to accompany these songs, instruments usually not permitted in the Mass.

Some churches have avoided this Christmas carol because of the first line of the carol, “Good Christian men, rejoice.” Today’s standards for inclusive language in reference to humanity result in the change of this line in most hymnals published in the last 20 years, to the lyrics “Good Christian folk” or “Good Christians all.” The original Latin does not refer to “men” or people at all.

The second unusual feature about this carol is the atypical change in meter. It really does sound more like it would be easier to dance to than sing to.

All this said, the message of the carol is clear and may be found in the last line of each verse: “Christ is born today!” “Christ is born for this!” Christ was born to save!

The Song

            Read this Christmas hymn, and – today – rejoice! Whether you are a man OR a woman!!

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
give ye heed to what we say: Jesus Christ is born today;
ox and ass before Him bow, and He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
now ye hear of endless bliss; Jesus Christ is born for this!
He hath opened Heaven’s door, and man is blessèd evermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul and voice;
now ye need not fear the grave: Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one and calls you all to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

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